Why Did Chris Dickerson Clear Waivers?


Alternate title: Why did I spend my day off analyzing Chris Dickerson?

I don’t play fantasy baseball. My dad and two of his friends play Big Show Baseball, which is run by a former member of the Los Angeles Angels’ front office, and is essentially fantasy baseball on steroids. There are a lot of spreadsheets involved, a lot of discussions about linear weights, contracts, arbitration, and non-roster invites, and 6-hour drafts via conference call. I’m not officially involved with the team, but I am somewhat unofficially the Yankee scout. Meaning I attempt to answer any questions the three of them have about Yankee players or prospects (though not knowing the answer has happened more times than I’m willing to admit). The other day, after realizing their team possessed little depth in the outfield, they had a Yankee question:

“What about Chris Dickerson?”

Back in February, Dickerson, who was out of minor league options, was placed on waivers by the Yankees to make room on the 40-man. Most were convinced he’d be claimed by another team, but he managed to clear waivers. Which means he’s heading to Triple-A once spring training ends and will be stashed away in the minor leagues as a nice insurance policy for the Yankees.

Dickerson was an extra outfielder for the Yankees, a late-inning defensive replacement, and an occasional pinch-runner/hitter. He was useful enough, and I figured a handful of teams would be interested. A few teams off the top of my head that are short on depth in the outfield and could benefit from having Dickerson on their team: the Houston Astros, New York Mets, or Washington Nationals.

Dickerson obviously has his flaws. He isn’t a great baseball player. He’s not even a very good player. He doesn’t hit lefties, he owns a career strikeout rate of 26.1% (though he has a career walk rate of 11%), and a career .133 ISO indicates power isn’t his game. But he’s athletic, and has an upside many teams could get plenty use out of. He’s only amassed 582 plate appearances in four major league seasons — split between the Cincinnati Reds, Milwaukee Brewers and Yankees — but he’s a lefty who has hit right-handers well in his career, can play all three outfield positions, and brings some defense and decent speed to the table. He’s exactly what teams should want in a fourth outfielder – though he could probably be starting for a team like the Astros. Um, for the record, I could probably be starting for a team like the Astros.

His career line against right-handers over four seasons is .270/.355/.415 with a .341 wOBA. He offers respectable speed, and has been pretty successful at stealing bases in both the majors and minors. Over limited playing time in four major league seasons, Dickerson has stolen 24 bases in 30 attempts (an 80% success rate). In the minors, he stole 161 bases in 208 attempts (a success rate of 77%).

So, what about Chris Dickerson? I think he’s a great role player to have on a team, particularly if you’re looking for outfield depth. Unfortunately for Dickerson, he hasn’t gotten many opportunities to be a full-time player or even a platoon, in part due to injuries. The Yankees simply have no room for him on the roster, but I’m of the opinion that he deserves more of a shot to flourish in the majors, and it still remains surprising that he managed to clear waivers.

Take a quick glance at the Astros depth chart and tell me I’m wrong.

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